Being the northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik is the cosmopolitan gateway to the dramatic and varied landscapes Iceland has to offer. Towering over the capital, the Hallgrimskirkja church gives Reykjavik its most enduring image and provides panoramic views over the colourful capital. The residential city centre below is dotted with elegant shops, stylish bars and revolutionary restaurants. The iconic and beautiful Blue Lagoon isn't far away, and provides a unique experience.
Covering a 300km loop from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back, the Golden Circle is a popular tourist route with three primary stops: the national park, Thingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss, and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the Geysir and Strokkur geysers.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula has been named ‘Iceland in Miniature’, and for good reason. Northwest of Reykjavik, the area is peaked by the towering Snaefellsjokul volcano, a dormant strato-volcano standing at 1,446m high. There are also sparkling glaciers and sweeping golden and pink beaches – one of the few places in Iceland where the sand isn’t black.
Drink the fresh carbonated water, sourced underground, at the natural mineral springs, like Raudamelsolkelda, climb along the beautiful belt of basalt columns in Gerduberg, or aim for the south-west township of Arnarstapi for a snowmobile tour of the Snaefellsjokul glacier. Another unique photo opportunity is provided by the beautiful Kirkjufell (‘church mountain’), which is perfectly symmetrical.
A holiday in west Iceland will reward you with black sand beaches, dramatic rock formations, and the lava field of Hallmundarhraun, where you’ll find a lava waterfall and Iceland’s biggest lava caves. More beautiful waterfalls include Glymur, Iceland’s highest waterfall, and Deildartunguhver, the most powerful hot spring in Europe. And then there's the Langjokull glacier, which can now be viewed from a man-made ice cave beneath.
West Iceland’s towns and villages are also well worth exploring. Visit Akranes, the largest town in West Iceland, with a population of 6,500, and take in the views from its picturesque lighthouse. Hark back to the Viking era in Eiriksstaoir, where modern-day Vikings share the knowledge and crafts of their ancestors from 1,000 years ago. The 13th-century author and politician Snorri Sturluson lived on a farm in Reykholt, where he wrote the Prose Edda, an extensive source of Norse mythology.